Q&A: Senate District 9 Ben Rodefer

  • NAME: Ben Rodefer
  • OCCUPATION: Renewable Energy Expert/Small Business Owner
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Former Member NM House, twice President of NM Renewable Energy Industries, Worked for US Senator Jeff Bingaman
  • EDUCATION: Sandoval, Taylor, Cibola, Cornell University
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: BenRodefer.com

  1. What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak?

Obama’s USDA Director Terry Brunner said that my leadership was crucial to New Mexico recovering from the Great Recession. As we face a daunting post-pandemic recovery I am ready once more to help heal our economy and our community. These will be tough times but together we will get through them.

  1. What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students?

NM’s teachers unite in endorsing me. We need to get more education dollars/resources directly down into the classrooms to support our amazing teachers and students. I have a bill to mandate increasing the percentage of our education budget that actually goes towards instruction, currently at an abysmal 55%.

  1. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

I served on the Tax & Revenue Committee while in the NM House and share the the goal of trying to lower our gross receipts tax rates. The first step here will be looking to close the myriad exemptions currently in statute that are artificially inflating the current necessary tax rate.

  1. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

I strongly support medical marijuana use. I believe we must afford effective and humane relief to struggling veterans, cancer patients and others facing debilitating pain and difficulty. I would like to see further detailed impact studies based on other states’ experiences before committing to opening recreational marijuana sales in New Mexico.

  1. In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?

I fully support the constitutional amendment and furthermore I am the only candidate with a proven voting record of being a champion for increasing funding for early childhood education funding.

  1. Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

Depends on the specifics of the proposal and which approach would be implemented. I would be quite cautious though to ensure there are no opportunities for one party to interfere or unfairly impact the election opportunities of any other party.

  1. Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?

I have long supported repealing that archaic law. Both for my daughters and for every woman in this state I will protect and fully fund accessible, comprehensive, quality preventive and reproductive health care. While in the NM House I had a perfect voting record on women’s reproductive health issues.

  1. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

I have proposed expanding our Sunshine Portal so that everyone can easily see online exactly how every tax dollar is spent and who has been awarded those contracts.  I support whatever is necessary to ensure we are making the most effective use of our limited budget. I will always voluntarily list all my capital allocations.

  1. Do you support or oppose requiring lobbyists to disclose which bills they advocate for or against?

It is crucial that our citizens know through full disclosure the specific voices and powers behind the laws being considered in our names. Full disclosure is always in the public’s best interests.

  1. New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What are the things you would do to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?

I would like to diversify our revenue base by offering greater support to local businesses with growth potential in technology, renewable energy, culture/arts, agriculture/foods, film/television and tourism. To rebuild our economy we need to focus heavily on infrastructure and education.

  1. Do you support or oppose updating the current prohibition in the law on assisted suicide in order to allow aid-in-dying under certain medical circumstances?

What kind of a society are we if we do not offer humane relief to those at end of life with terminal diagnoses who are experiencing great pain and suffering. I would have to see the specific proposals and legislation but I think we need to show love and compassion here. Numerous other states have approved similar measures..

12: Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?

The answer here is to enact and enforce stronger conservation and environmental protection laws and regulations. We need to mitigate methane emissions, modernize equipment to detect and stop leaks more quickly, limit potentially dangerous chemicals being used, ban the reintroduction of produced water, and yes, expand renewable mandates.

  1. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?

We need to give judges the option of remanding habitual offenders for longer sentences while concurrently offering treatment to non-violent first time offenders. We need to expand support, awareness and funding for behavioral health. We need to implement easier ways for police departments to fill their vacant positions.

  1. Do you support or oppose the practice of legislative budget-writing committees holding closed-door meetings during the crafting of state spending bills?

I believe in full disclosure and open meetings across all of government. True Democracy is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Anything done in hiding, in secret, diminishes and demeans those founding Democratic values.


Personal background

  1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? No
  2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? No
  3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain. No